April 25, 2015

1:06 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice
Aunt Pythia has barely recovered from her pastry indulgences of last weekend, and yet it is time to once again act the advice tailor and dispense terrible and ill-fitted advice pants (probably because of said pastry indulgences) to anyone who will listen. Don’t ask her why, but Aunt Pythia is into the concept of a tailor who […]

April 24, 2015

3:39 PM | Food service, yes. Door-to-door, no.
From The Atlantic, a rather horrifying story by Darlene Cunha:...Over a cup of coffee, she introduced herself as Tysharia Young and tried to do what she’d come to do: sell me overpriced magazine subscriptions. It was not the first time someone had knocked on my door for this purpose, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. Gainesville has had such issues with magazine sellers that our local police department recently issued a public warning. Young came armed with an official […]
1:09 PM | Driving While Black in the Bronx
This is the story of Q, a black man living in the Bronx, who kindly allowed me to interview him about his recent experience. The audio recording of my interview with him is available below as well. Q was stopped in the Bronx driving a new car, the fourth time that week, by two rookie […]
9:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week (or more like two weeks): The problem with satisfied patients. Happiness inequality. Explaining the growth mindset. Gender-blind economists. Logical versus ecological rationality. Slaughter scientific peer review. HT: Christopher Snowdon. Poor children have smaller brains. And if you missed them, my posts from the last two weeks: Unemployment and self control. Uncertainty and […]

April 23, 2015

6:53 PM | Chemical safety updates: Daniel Powell charges dropped, David Snyder ordered to pay restitution
From C&EN's Jyllian Kemsley, a couple of items of interest. First, the story of Daniel Powell, the Colorado teacher charged with assault after injuring a student during a methanol/flame demonstration. The charges have been dropped: Last fall, a Denver teacher, Daniel Powell, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a classroom fire seriously burned a student. Powell had lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties, then tried to add more […]
5:47 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 4/23/15 edition
A few of the recent positions posted on C&EN Jobs:Santa Fe, NM: This "Director of Global Scientific Support" position at OpenEye is very interesting - it's like a combination of computational chemist and customer service. Ph.D., 3 years with customer-facing work desired.Santa Rosa, CA: Thermochem is looking for a B.S. chemist to do HPLC and IC work.Bakersville, NC: Unimin is a mining company (not unknown around here); they're looking for a B.S. chemist to be a research scientist, 5+ years […]
2:43 PM | Any advice for someone who has a layoff non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement?
I have a friend who has been laid off -- they'd like to know more about non-disclosure agreements and the non-disparagement clauses of severance packages. Readers, any advice? Not quite on topic, but a funny-but-no-so-funny story found while searching on this topic:A great example of the enforceability of settlement agreements that contain confidentiality agreements is the Gulliver Schools1 case out of Florida. There, Patrick Snay, the former headmaster of a private school, brought a […]

April 22, 2015

3:40 PM | Four political camps in the big data world
Last Friday I was honored to be part of a super interesting and provocative conference at UC Berkeley’s Law School called Open Data: Addressing Privacy, Security, and Civil Rights Challenges. What I loved about this conference is that it explicitly set out to talk across boundaries of the data world. That’s unusual. Broadly speaking, there are […]
3:28 PM | Runaway stirplates?
Thanks to a note on the listserv of the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety, I am made aware of certain models of hotplate/stirrer that seem to turn on by themselves and overheat. Here's a bulletin from the Division of Research Safety at UIUC:Over the past ten years there have been multiple incidents of hotplates spontaneously heating in the OFF position leading to fires and explosions. Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, the University of California, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, […]
3:13 PM | n-Hexane, benzene, still troublesome in China
An interesting, sad Wired article about Chinese occupational exposure to industrial solvent and the difficulty surrounding getting health care after the injury from the exposure:THEY CALLED IT “banana oil.” Long Li didn't ask what was in it. All she knew was that she was supposed to use it to clean cell phone screens, hundreds of them every hour. Fumes filled the air in the windowless room where she worked, in a three-story factory outside the southeastern China city of […]

April 21, 2015

6:02 PM | Tears, followed by laughter, followed by tears
Via a friend of the blog, a funny LinkedIn ad. 
6:00 PM | Standardized Testing Opt-out Rally in Brooklyn Today
I just got back from Berkeley, California, which was amazing. Listening to the radio out there, I was pleased to hear all about the growing standardized testing protest movement going on here in New York City. And although I see lots of reasons to discuss Common Core issues separately from the over-reliance on testing, I […]
3:37 PM | Ask CJ: Should I write a letter about my former advisor to the department?
From the inbox, an interesting question from "JGN" (this comment has been redacted for privacy and edited for clarity): I'm an [chemistry] graduate student working for a [prominent chemist]. Due to many [administrative problems] and me not seeing eye-to-eye with my advisor for a myriad of reasons, I've been fortunate enough to "leave with a Masters" and to gain entrance into another PhD program elsewhere. My question to you is this: Is it wise or a good idea for me to send a […]
3:02 PM | Job posting: experienced computational chemist, AstraZeneca, Waltham, MA
From the inbox: We are currently recruiting a highly qualified computational chemist who will be joining our fast-pace multidisciplinary oncology team. The successful candidate will support project teams from target identification through lead optimization. The candidate is expected to have a degree of independence and proven record of excellence in a number of computational chemistry and cheminformatics techniques to assist in the identification and advancement of small-molecule drug […]

April 20, 2015

3:28 PM | David Harwell and the STEM panel: no hope
From a random clicking around, I happened upon one of my old bugaboos, Bayer MaterialScience, and a YouTube of flogging of the "STEM crisis" in a December 2013 panel. If you'd like to listen to it, there's over 90 minutes of self-congratulatory hogwash from a variety of people who claim that there is a vast shortage of STEM workers. I was pretty irritated at it, but then I heard this exchange from Dr. David Harwell, an American Chemical Society staff member, asking the panel a pretty darn good […]
3:27 PM | This week's C&EN
Lots of interesting tidbits in this week's C&EN:Very interesting article about yeast and beer brewing by Matt Davenport. (Don't care what you say, but marijuana beer sounds yucky.) Additionally, a good read by Jyllian Kemsley on the laboratory safety of marijuana extraction. I'll repeat a mantra of mine, speaking as a marijuana non-user: if cannabis is going to be legal, it's the responsibility of chemists to run the home butane hash oil folks out of business. Interesting […]

April 19, 2015

2:13 PM | Taking a short break--no post this week
I'm taking a short break this week and expect to post again on Sunday, March 26.

April 18, 2015

5:53 PM | Aunt Pythia’s and Uncle Aristippus’ advice
Readers, Aunt Pythia has an amazing guest philosopher here with her today in sunny Berkeley, a paradise on earth and home to the Kouign Amann: His name is Aristippus, and he claims to be the inventor of hedonism. We’ll be the judges of that, though, shall we? His philosophy dictates a lifestyle in which he […]

April 17, 2015

9:37 PM | Science nightmares
It's been a long week of late nights and late consultations at work.Last night, I dreamed that I was up for my doctoral thesis defense and I couldn't find the presentation room, didn't have a presentation and I was pretty sure that I didn't have my Powerpoint slides. It has been quite a number of years (5+) since I somehow managed to squeak by successfully defended my thesis, so that was interesting. It has been the only time in my life where I have woken up from a dream and realized, "I […]
9:36 PM | Job posting: experienced Ph.D. medicinal chemist, Seattle, WA
The Hutch is looking for an experienced medicinal chemist: The candidate is expected to utilize cutting-edge chemistry techniques to design and synthesize novel peptide conjugates, as well as the characterization of the physiochemical properties of both free and conjugated Optides. The position requires a strong background in protein chemistry, bioconjugation and analytical techniques. The chemistry will include highly potent/toxic chemotherapeutic agents and incorporation of radiolabeled […]
1:39 PM | Putting the dick pic on the Snowden story
I’m on record complaining about how journalists dumb down stories in blind pursuit of “naming the victim” or otherwise putting a picture on the story. But then again, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do, especially when the story is super complicated. Case in point: the Snowden revelations story. In the past 2 weeks I’ve seen the […]

April 16, 2015

6:49 PM | C&EN request for stories of infertility
From the inbox:Nobody likes to talk about infertility, but it’s a growing problem, especially among busy professionals who are putting off starting a family to start their careers. Once they start down the path of infertility treatments, however, it can be financially draining and take an emotional toll.C&EN senior editor Linda Wang is looking for chemists (both male and female) willing to share their experiences with infertility and what impact it’s had on their lives and […]
3:19 PM | The most brutally honest sentence I read today
I've been reading Daniel Drezner (professor of international political economy at Tufts) for a very long time. This was a very interesting statement on his part:The first is that if your goal is to become a professor and you are not accepted with a scholarship into a top-20 political science program, I would not in good conscience recommend that you get a PhD.Most of the professoriate in international relations comes from the elite schools. Whether this is because these schools function as a […]
11:20 AM | Workplace Personality Tests: a Cynical View
There’s a frightening article in the Wall Street Journal by Lauren Weber about personality tests people are now forced to take to get shitty jobs in customer calling centers and the like. Some statistics from the article include: 8 out of 10 of the top private employers use such tests, and 57% of employers overall […]
6:28 AM | Special journal issue “Feeding 9 billion by 2050: challenges and opportunities”
In its April edition, the journal ‘Food Security’ presents a series of papers presented at an OECD meeting on “Feeding 9 billion by 2050: challenges and opportunities”. The articles cover a range of topics related to future food security, ranging from general outlooks over the debate of sustainable intensification to water, the role of fish, […]

April 15, 2015

12:45 PM | Fingers crossed – book coming out next May
As it turns out, it takes a while to write a book, and then another few months to publish it. I’m very excited today to tentatively announce that my book, which is tentatively entitled Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, will be published in May 2016, in time to appear […]
9:00 AM | Returns to self control – unemployment edition
A new paper in Psychological Science by Michael Daly and friends: Childhood Self-Control and Unemployment Throughout the Life Span: Evidence From Two British Cohort Studies The capacity for self-control may underlie successful labor-force entry and job retention, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. Analyzing unemployment data from two nationally representative British cohorts (N = 16,780), we […]

April 14, 2015

9:30 PM | Tom Connelly to C&EN readers: meet ACS' new girlfriend, hotter than ACS' old girlfriend
This was an interesting portion of new ACS executive director Tom Connelly's "Hello, nice to meet you!" column in this week's C&EN: ...Like our profession, there are aspects of our society that also require examination. We need to continue to strengthen our service to members, while recognizing that their needs are changing. Our membership must reflect the full scope of the practice of chemistry. Our industrial membership has been drifting down recently. It is important to understand […]
8:56 PM | Job posting: Sr. Research Scientist II, Analytical Development, Gilead , Edmonton, AB
From the inbox, another worthwhile Canadian position: Position Description: Gilead in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is seeking an experienced and knowledgeable professional to assume the position of Sr. Research Scientist II in Gilead Alberta’s Analytical Development department.  Essential Duties and Job Functions: - Responsible for directing and executing scientific research for the development of drug candidates or the research support of marketed drugs.- Investigates the […]
6:54 PM | Job posting: M.S./Ph.D. synthetic chemists desired, Montreal, Canada
From the inbox, an astute reader passing along an ad:NuChem Therapeutics is looking for MSc or PhD chemists (preferably with experience) to join our team in drug discovery and custom synthesis. Please contact me at or at 5/1/4-2/8/3-1/9/2/0. Best wishes to those interested. (I've spam-proofed the phone number and removed the "@" from the e-mail, but other than that, it's the same. 
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